The central Iowa town of Newton has drawn national attention in recent years for its struggles to recover from the loss of 4,000 jobs when Whirlpool closed the Maytag plant in 2007. Newton Mayor Chaz Allen says the city has benefited from the national spotlight as other companies have recognized there’s a pool of experienced workers in the region.
“It was a shock at first, but I think we’ve done a lot to recover,” Allen said. He was a guest Monday on the National Public Radio program “Talk of the Nation” and said local residents did feel betrayed by Whirlpool’s decision four years ago. “People graduated from high school and wanted to go work at Maytag…because of the wages and benefits. It was a good living,” Allen said.
The 2000 Census found Newton had a population of 15,800 people. Allen said, by 2010, the city only lost 400 residents despite the loss of 4,000 jobs at Maytag. “People in Newton commute to different places now,” Allen said. “There are a lot more people in Newton commuting to Des Moines, Pella, Knoxville, Marshalltown and Ankeny to work at places like Vermeer, Pella Windows, 3M and John Deere. We’re kind right in the center of a manufacturing hub. So, people are able to stay in Newton but commute to work.”
Allen also noted the city’s accomplishments in landing new manufacturers since the Maytag shutdown; notably TPI Composites, Trinity Structural Towers and Springboard Engineering. The city of Newton was spotlighted at this time last year on the TV news program “60 Minutes” in a piece about how the recession affected small town America.
By Randy Van, KCOB, Newton